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Reports of mass Islamic State kidnappings ‘extremely exaggerated’

After Islamic State fighters captured the regime-controlled neighborhood of al-Baghlia […]

18 January 2016

After Islamic State fighters captured the regime-controlled neighborhood of al-Baghlia in Deir e-Zor city over the weekend, reports circulated widely in the Arabic and Western news media that they had kidnapped 400 civilians, based on information provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

“We’ve denied previously that this is true–it isn’t,” Abu Zeid Abdullah, a journalist with pro-opposition Sound and Picture, tells Syria Direct’s Mohammed al-Haj Ali. Abdullah is currently in Idlib province, but remains in contact with his organization’s correspondents in Deir e-Zor city.

Twenty families who tried to escape the fighting, numbering around 60 individuals total, were captured by IS and sent to Raqqa city, Abdullah says. “The talk about 400 people is extremely exaggerated.”

Civilians still inside al-Baghlia are living “in the midst of panic,” says Abdullah, not so much from IS retribution as from “the regime’s indiscriminate bombing.”

Q: How are civilians doing right now in the areas where clashes are ongoing? Al-Baghlia specifically?

Civilians who are still inside the village are in the midst of panic. They fear that death might come at any moment as a result of the regime’s indiscriminate bombing of roads and crossings.

There are injured people still in their houses, to say nothing of the fact that a number of houses were destroyed by heavy bombing from Russian warplanes.

Q: Some media outlets are reporting that the Islamic State kidnapped 400 people in al-Baghilia. Is this true?

We’ve denied previously that this is true. It isn’t. What happened was that families tried to flee from al-Baghlia, and IS picked them up and sent them to Raqqa. They sent the young men off to sharia courses. About 20 families were subjected to this treatment, meaning roughly 60 people were affected. 

There were arrests and executions that targeted members of the NDF and other regime militiamen and supporters, around 15 men total. IS also arrested a group of civilians, including traders, and charged them with smuggling food into regime-controlled areas.

This is all that happened in al-Baghlia. The talk about 400 people is extremely exaggerated.

Q: What’s the actual number of civilians who were killed during the fighting? Some media reports say that more than 150 inside al-Baghlia?

That is incorrect. Today, the number of dead from the battle reached around 100. The dead are made up of NDF fighters who were either killed during the firefight, or when IS stormed the village. A number of regime soldiers were captured and executed yesterday night in the a-Sheikh Yassin neighborhood of Deir e-Zor.

As for civilians, IS executed two in al-Baghlia after charging them with working for the regime. There were around 15 civilians killed because of the Russian airstrikes, and the regime’s shelling of the neighborhood, including 10 people from two families. Women and children were among the dead.

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